For Christmas, my daughter gave me a small, homemade poster that reads “All those who wander are not lost.” Appropriately, the lettering is made from a road map. Of all my Christmas gifts, I was most touched by this one. I love to wander. I wander in Utah, I wander in the western United States, and I wander the world. I have traveled in about 30 countries, and have had some wonderful times. While wandering, I have discovered a lot about myself and the world. And I’ve had the opportunity to spend some incredible times with my children (and hopefully soon, my grandchildren).
Coincidentally, there was a wonderful paragraph written by Barry Laga in the recent Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Winter 2010, p. 149) that discussed wandering:
“To wander” suggests a lack of purpose, drifting aimlessly hold one’s faith too loosely. In medieval Christian folklore, the “Wandering Jew” was condemned to walk the earth because he insulted Jesus on His way to Golgotha. Cain was cursed to walk the earth for killing Abel and for denying his brotherly responsibilities. The children of Israel had to wander in the wilderness for forty years because of their disobedience. Old Testament prophets and writings–the Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea in particular–are fond of using “wandering” as a metaphor for spiritual decay, stubbornness, and disobedience. Clearly, a circuitous and delayed journey manifests a wayward soul, and wandering becomes a form of damnation itself.
But Laga’s article is, in part, a defense of wandering.
In many respects “wander” has become a synonym for “wonder.” D. Jeff Burton has written a book titled: For Those Who Wonder: Managing Religious Questions and Doubt. The book could just as easily be titled: For Those Who Wander.
My wandering embraces my wondering. Ever since my Mormon mission to Belgium and France (where I did a lot of wandering and wondering) in the 1960s, I’ve struggled with religion. I find doubt to be an important sacrament.
A family member hung a small poster on the dining room wall in my home: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,” a quote from Marcel Proust. But for me, “seeking new landscapes” and “having new eyes” are both important components–along with doubt–of who I am.
Jessica, thanks for the Christmas present. It means a lot to me.